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August 10, 2009

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In-Depth Issues:

Report: Cell Plotted to Kill Israel's Ambassador to Egypt (Ynet News)
    A plot to assassinate Israeli Ambassador to Egypt Shalom Cohen was uncovered, the Egyptian newspaper al-Masry al-Youm reported on Saturday.
    Operatives of the al-Zeitoun cell admitted to having plotted to kill the ambassador, bomb his home and the embassy in Cairo last year.
    The suspects said they were in contact with members of the al-Qaeda organization.
    The Egyptian state paper al-Ahram reported that the cell caught was the same cell that carried out an attack in a Cairo market last February, and that planned to bomb other religious and tourist sites in Egypt as well as the gas pipeline between Egypt and Israel.
    Al-Ahram said the suspects said they trained in camps belonging to the "Palestinian Army of Islam in the Gaza Strip" and that they helped smuggle activists across the border to carry out their attacks.

66% of Israelis Back Continued Construction Anywhere in Jerusalem (Ynet News)
    66% of the Israeli Jewish public supports continued building anywhere in Jerusalem, according to the July 2009 War and Peace Index poll published by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University.
    46% said President Obama is pro-Palestinian, 31% believe that Obama is neutral, and 7% said he is pro-Israeli.
    26% said they believed the U.S. president is likely to preserve Israel's interests in the long run, compared with 68% who believe he would not.

U.S. Policy Shift on Sudan Becomes More Vivid (Sudan Tribune)
    U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration criticized the decade-long sanctions imposed by his country on Sudan. Speaking in Khartoum on July 21, he said they are undermining diplomatic efforts to resolve multiple conflicts in the country.
    The Washington Post said that Obama's national security advisers have been locked in dispute over the right mix of rewards and penalties to persuade the Khartoum government to pursue peace in those regions.
    Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, has been pressing for a tougher approach, citing Sudan's history of violating previous agreements. But Gration suggested that engagement is the way forward.
    Gration said last month that Darfur is witnessing "remnants of genocide," drawing criticism from advocacy groups. "I am not saying the genocide is over. What I am saying though is that my focus is on recovery," he said.
    See also Where Is the Muslim Anger over Darfur? - Ed Husain (Independent-UK)
    The Khartoum regime, brought to power in a fundamentalist Islamist coup 20 years ago, has killed an estimated 400,000 of its fellow Muslim citizens.
    Yet there is near silence about massive human rights abuses in Sudan. As Tareq Al-Hamed, editor of Asharq Alaswat, has asked, "Are the people of Darfur not Muslims as well?"

Useful Reference:

    LIFE Magazine Photos of Israel - 1948 - Part 1
    LIFE Magazine Photos of Israel - 1948 - Part 2
    LIFE Magazine Photos of Israel - 1960 by Paul Schutzer
    LIFE and Death - Photos of Israel - 1967 by Paul Schutzer - Ben Atlas (
    Paul Schutzer was embedded with an Israeli armored column moving into Gaza in the 1967 war. His half-track took a direct hit. They found this film roll in the camera next to his body.

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News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:

  • Clinton: U.S. Has No Illusions Iran Wants Talks over Nuclear Program - Steven R. Hurst
    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday the U.S. has no illusions that Iran will accept overtures to return to negotiations about its nuclear program and will not wait much longer for Tehran to respond. "We are under no illusions. We were under no illusions before their elections that we can get the kind of engagement we are seeking," she told CNN. Clinton said the U.S. would re-evaluate its efforts to entice Iran back to the negotiating table in September. "We're not going to keep the window open forever," she said. (AP)
  • Presidential Adviser Encouraged by Hizbullah's Evolution
    John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on Aug. 6: "Hizbullah started out as purely a terrorist organization back in the early '80s and has evolved significantly over time. And now it has members of parliament, in the cabinet; there are lawyers, doctors, others who are part of the Hizbullah organization.... Quite frankly, I'm pleased to see that a lot of Hizbullah individuals are in fact renouncing that type of terrorism and violence and are trying to participate in the political process in a very legitimate fashion."  (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
        See also State Department: U.S. Policy Toward Hizbullah Has Not Changed
    Deputy State Department Spokesman Robert Wood said on Aug. 7: "Hizbullah is a terrorist organization. U.S. policy toward Hizbullah has not changed. We do not make any distinction between the political and military wings."  (State Department)
  • Iranian Officials Call for Arrest of Opposition Leaders - Thomas Erdbrink
    Revolutionary Guard generals, top politicians and senior clerics have called for the arrest and punishment of opposition leaders, including defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, Iranian state media reported Sunday, while the national police chief acknowledged that protesters had been mistreated while in custody. "In order to end this mayhem, they need to arrest, try and punish these political figures," Gen. Yadollah Javani, head of the political office of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, said Sunday. "These individuals should be prosecuted, punished and tried as traitors." He singled out Mousavi, defeated candidate Mehdi Karroubi and former president Mohammad Khatami. (Washington Post)
        See also Iran Admits Election Demonstrators Were Tortured - Simon Tisdall (Guardian-UK)
  • News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

  • Fatah: Jerusalem Is an "Integral Part of the Palestinian Homeland" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah's sixth General Assembly on Saturday approved a resolution saying Jerusalem is an "integral part of the Palestinian homeland and political entity," the latest in a series of hard-line decisions adopted by the conference. Fatah defines Jerusalem as the "eternal capital of Palestine, the Arab world and the Islamic and Christian worlds." Fatah pledges to continue to make sacrifices "until Jerusalem returns to the Palestinians void of settlers and settlements." The conference also endorsed the Aksa Martyrs Brigades as Fatah's official armed wing, contradicting promises made by the Fatah leadership that the Aksa Martyrs Brigades have been dismantled. (Jerusalem Post)
        See also Fatah Moves "to Remove, Defeat Occupation" - Khaled Abu Toameh
    Fatah's sixth General Assembly on Sunday approved a political platform that emphasizes the Palestinians' right "to resist occupation in all forms." The conference also endorsed a resolution that defines Fatah as a "national liberation movement whose goal is to remove and defeat the occupation." In a statement, Fatah also stressed the Palestinian refugees' right to return to their original villages inside Israel. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Netanyahu: "We Will Not Create New Evacuees"
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet Sunday: "The unilateral evacuation from the Gaza Strip brought neither peace nor security. To my regret, the opposite occurred and we know that Gaza became a Hamas base under Iranian control from which thousands of missiles have been fired, including in the last campaign. In short, this did not bring peace....We will not repeat this mistake."
        "We want multilateral agreements based on two basic components: One, the genuine recognition of the State of Israel and two - of course - security arrangements, the honoring and enforcement of which will be assured. Regarding the unilateral evacuation from Gaza, these two elements were lacking. We will see to it that if there is a turn towards peace by the more moderate Palestinians, we will insist on the following components: Recognition and genuine demilitarization will find expression in, and be integral parts of, the peace arrangements."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Reports of New Peace Plan Premature - Roee Nahmias
    According to a Saturday report in the London-based Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat, speculations about a nearing Middle East peace summit are premature. U.S. sources are quoted as saying that three conditions must materialize if any further progress is to be made: Having Israel halt settlement expansion, seeing the PA advance security issues, and ensuring some overtures by Arab nations ahead of normalizing their relations with Israel. The sources said Obama's efforts are focused on "creating the proper regional atmosphere."  (Ynet News)
  • Palestinians in Gaza Fire Rocket, Mortars at Israel - Anshel Pfeffer
    On Sunday, Gaza militants fired mortars at a border crossing just as Palestinian patients were being transferred to Israel for treatment. "It's a miracle nobody was hurt," said Palestinian Health Ministry official Dr. Moaiya Hassanain. Earlier Sunday, Palestinians fire a Kassam rocket into Israel. In response to Sunday's mortar and rocket attacks, Israel targeted a tunnel in Rafah suspected of being used to smuggle explosives into Gaza from Egypt. (Ha'aretz)
  • Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis (Best of U.S., UK, and Israel):

  • The AIPAC Case and Prejudice - Gary Wasserman
    The conspiracy case against two former AIPAC lobbyists came to an inglorious end in May when the government dropped all charges after 3 1/2 years of pre-trial maneuvers. The lobbyists were targets of a bizarre sting in which they were fed false information suggesting that the lives of U.S. and Israeli operatives in Iraq were at risk. The accusation was not that they brokered this information to some foreign enemy but that they offered it to everybody they could, hoping that it might save U.S. lives. In short, even if the two were guilty as charged, they look more like whistle-blowers than spies.
        But the most curious element of the case is why it was ever brought. Why set up a sting unless you believe there's some underlying pattern of wrongdoing to be exposed? Larry Franklin, the former Pentagon analyst who leaked the bogus tip to the lobbyists, told the Washington Times last month that investigators "asked about every Jew I knew" in his office. Anti-Semitism was "part of this investigation and may have been an initial incitement of this investigation."
        After years and millions of dollars spent investigating the nefarious "Israel Lobby," the case produced no stolen secrets, no money changing hands, no covert meetings, no high-level, dual-loyal officials, no harm to the national interest and no spies. The writer is a professor of government at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar. (Washington Post)
  • Are the Fundamental Assumptions of Oslo Still Valid? - Zaki Shalom
    The rejection of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's far-reaching offer to Mahmoud Abbas, as well as previous offers by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak at Camp David (July 2000) and the Clinton parameters, cast a heavy shadow of doubt over fundamental assumptions underlying the Oslo process. The rejection of the Barak and Olmert offers reflects what much of Israeli public opinion has long felt, namely, at critical moments the Palestinians find it difficult to make a decision in favor of a pragmatic compromise.
        This contrasts sharply with the model of the Zionist movement which, in its desire to obtain any territory whatsoever for the persecuted Jewish people, was willing to accept almost any diplomatic plan, provided only that a sovereign Jewish state would be established in its framework. The Palestinian leadership has demonstrated a radically different approach and seemingly operates on the principle of all or nothing. This questions the sincerity of the drive to establish an independent Palestinian state as a concrete political plan. The writer is a Principal Research Fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies. (INSS-Tel Aviv University)
  • Observations:

    No Expansion vs. Freeze: Obama's Dilemma over Israeli Settlements - David Makovsky (Washington Institute for Near East Policy)

    • The Obama administration hopes that its efforts will promote peace talks, but so far, the president's approach has had the reverse effect. The U.S. has raised Arab expectations of a settlement freeze to a level that may be impossible to meet. In fact, PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas declared that he will not negotiate with Israel without a full settlement freeze. Saudi Arabia's refusal to cooperate with Mitchell's peace gestures also creates speculation about whether other Arab states will keep their promises.
    • The settlement impasse has also impacted the dynamic of the Obama-Netanyahu relationship. Netanyahu is known to have felt blindsided by Obama when, without advance warning, he raised the idea of a settlement freeze during their first meeting.
    • The Obama administration has stated that it wants Israel to stop not only outward expansion - which could be seen as territorially encroaching on a future Palestinian state - but also construction within preexisting settlements, vertical or otherwise. So far, the Obama administration has not forwarded a public rationale for this stance, but privately, U.S. officials say that brokering a total freeze would be much easier than the difficult project of monitoring the expansion of each settlement.
    • Netanyahu opposes the freeze idea as being impractical, since school classrooms, synagogues, and other similar buildings need to be built within existing settlements. He worries that the suggested moratorium lacks an exit strategy, which would leave Israel as the scapegoat if the moratorium unravels. Israelis see the prime minister's position on vertical growth within settlements as reasonable and Obama's statements as rigid.
    • Israel asserts that it reached a verbal understanding with the U.S. in spring 2003, enabling Israel to accept the Quartet-endorsed Roadmap peace plan, support the creation of a Palestinian state, and ultimately even withdraw from Gaza. According to the Israelis, a delegation of U.S. officials, led by then deputy national security advisor Steve Hadley, flew to Israel on May 1, 2003, to meet with Ariel Sharon to hammer out settlement principles. The two sides agreed that Israel could build within settlements so long as it constructed no new ones, engaged in no more land expropriations, and provided no financial incentives to settlers to move to the West Bank. Whatever happened in 2003, Israel's perception of the episode will cause it to question the validity of any future verbal agreement with the U.S.
    • It seems unlikely that the U.S. and Israel will reach a sustainable freeze on settlements, other than as a short-term symbolic gesture. Nonetheless, a more sustainable no-expansion agreement is attainable, one that deals with the central issue of territorial enlargement. A nonexpansion approach might have ended the current impasse months ago, and genuine peace negotiations could already be in process.

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